Family Farming Operations Coming Under Fire

By Roger Haldenby
Plains Cotton Growers

Many farmers are finding themselves faced with a very real and substantial quandary as they learn that changes in USDA rules bring changes to eligibility of their family farming operation for participation in government programs.

One such farmer says, “My family has operated a cotton farming operation for several generations. Since 1973 – 35 crops and we’ve operated as a corporation. My parents set up their farming operation as a corporation for the same reasons most individuals do; Financial purposes, taxes, liability, organization and as a means to transfer the rewards of their hard work, in some pretty rough times, to the next generation and the next. It’s a family farm – nothing more.”

He went on to say, “(Last) week we learned that our farming operation of just over 1,800 acres would lose 75% of its eligibility for government payments simply because it is a corporation.”

This farmer’s sister says, “I’m the oldest daughter of a cotton-farm family. My parents, brothers, sister and I worked hard to develop a profitable farming business through some very difficult times. To ensure that their hard work was not in vain, my parents set up a farm corporation in 1972 to preserve the family business. It was the intent of my parents that all family members share equally, just as we did while working. It’s my understanding that proposed changes to the 2008 Farm Bill will undermine my parents and family’s efforts of the past 37 years and their intention that the family farm remain just that – a family farm.”

This family and others need your help. There is an opportunity for you to make comment and request that the United States Secretary of Agriculture review and revise the proposed rules of payment eligibility.

There is a form letter requesting these rules be reviewed and corrected. It’s hosted by Plains Cotton Growers and the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce.

Go to: www.plainscotton.org. Scroll down to “USDA Proposed Rule on Payment Limits,” click on the link, fill out the letter and you’re done. In the opening to the letter you’ll have the opportunity to write a few words about yourself and your involvement or connection with agriculture.

These rules that were proposed in the Federal Register by the outgoing Bush Administration exceed the intent of Congress. The original comment period closed January 28 but has been reopened and extended. While the interim rule became effective December 23, 2008, the extension will allow comments received by April 6, 2009, to be considered. Unless the new Secretary of Agriculture takes action to review and correct these rules, there could be broad, adverse impacts on many family farming operations.

We strongly encourage you to log on and let your opinion be known.

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